He was already an eight-time Pro Bowl player, a Super Bowl MVP and a future Hall of Famer.
On Wednesday, the two-year anniversary of Bryant’s death, Miller paid homage to the Lakers star. He said that reading Bryant’s book and viewing documentaries about the five-time NBA champion helped him hone and appreciate his own craft.
“I realized that I wasn’t doing all that I possibly could to be the best,” Miller said during a video conference with reporters. “I thought I was … but I wasn’t committing all of me to the game. But after seeing the way Kobe did, and you see what came from it, I realized I wasn’t doing what Kobe was doing to be the best.”
Miller, acquired by the Rams in a trade-deadline deal with the Denver Broncos, was in top form last Sunday in a divisional-round victory over the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers that advanced the Rams to the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
Miller had one of the Rams’ three sacks of Tom Brady — Miller also forced a fumble on the play — as part of a pass rush that also features star lineman Aaron Donald and linebacker Leonard Floyd among others.
On Sunday, Miller will try to help the Rams defeat the 49ers for the first time since 2018.
Miller is no longer nursing an ankle injury that forced him to sit out a game before he made his Rams debut in a 31-10 defeat by the 49ers.
Miller had no sacks in that game, but he had a sack and two hits on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in a 27-24 defeat in the season finale.
Miller has at least one sack in each of the last six games, including playoff victories over the Arizona Cardinals and the Buccaneers.
“You could tell he keeps getting healthier, is getting more comfortable and they’ve got as good of a group as I’ve ever seen,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters during a video conference on Wednesday. “And to add Von Miller with the people they already have, with their scheme and everything, everyone saw it last week versus Tampa and that’s usually how it’s going to look.
“So, hopefully, you get them to play some other stuff and we can make it a different-type game, but that’s what these guys are made for.”
Miller, 32, was the second pick in the 2011 NFL draft, and he was voted to the Pro Bowl in all but one of his first nine NFL seasons.
During the 2020 preseason, he suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him the entire season. He drew inspiration from Bryant’s comeback from an Achilles injury.
“It was Kobe, and him going through his Achilles, that really pushed me through my injury,” Miller said, adding, “Anybody can really apply the Mamba Mentality to their lives, and I really want that fire that Kobe had into my life. And I think that two years or me really doing all the stuff I’m doing is starting to pay off …
“This is my 11th year in the league. I don’t how much time I have, but I want to take full advantage of the opportunity that I have right now, full advantage of my moment.”
Miller did that in the 2015 playoffs, helping the Broncos advance to Super Bowl 50 with a dominating performance in the AFC championship game against the New England Patriots. He had 2½ of the Broncos’ five sacks of Brady and also intercepted a pass, setting the stage for another dominating performance in a Super Bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Now, Miller said he is playing for teammates such as Donald, offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth and safety Eric Weddle, veterans in search of their first Super Bowl title.
“I get the most out of myself whenever I’m doing something for somebody else, whenever I’m playing for somebody else,” he said.
Miller is clearly enjoying his time with the Rams in Los Angeles, and a pursuit of his second Super Bowl title. The “hardest part” of leaving Denver, he said, was being separated from his 5-month-old son.
“A couple years from now, I want to say, ‘Dad had to leave, but I brought back a Super Bowl — I brought back a Lombardi [Trophy] for you,’” Miller said, adding, “This is my moment, this is my time. And I want to take full advantage of it.”
Offensive lineman Joe Noteboom (chest muscle), receiver Van Jefferson (knee) and defensive lineman Greg Gaines (toe) were listed as nonparticipants on the estimated injury report the Rams released after a walk-through. Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth (knee) and safety Taylor Rapp were listed as limited. McVay said he expected that Whitworth would be available Sunday. Receiver Cooper Kupp was voted NFL offensive player of the year by the Pro Football Writers of America. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was voted most valuable player and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt was defensive player of the year. Los Angeles Times reporters do not participate in the voting.